Back for its third edition, American Spa’s Women in Wellness Awards honor those who are making an impact in the industry and beyond. These exceptional women are transforming the wellness world with their noteworthy contributions such as serving on related industry boards and organizations, discovering untapped opportunities, giving back, and bringing their unique perspective to all that they do. Nominated by their peers and chosen by acclaimed wellness journalists, these women are showing they’re a force with which to be reckoned.
From August 26 through September 4, American Spa has been announcing one new winner and two finalists of the 2019 Women in Wellness Awards each day. Today, discover the Brand Founder of the Year.
Industry Icon: This award honors a longtime female spa leader who sees the potential of our industry and has influenced its growth and success.
WINNER: Ruth Stricker, founder, owner, and executive director, The Marsh, a Center for Balance and Fitness (Minnetonka, MN)
A pioneer and spokesperson for the mind-body connection, Ruth Stricker founded The Marsh, A Center for Balance and Fitness in 1985. She began her career in wellness as a health education and youth camp director. Embarking on a path to entrepreneurship, she led group fitness classes and pioneered the study of mind/body interactions associated with exercise. During this time, she was diagnosed with lupus. Her blend of mindful exercise was soon acknowledged by medical professionals as the beginning of the mind-body movement. Part of the International Spa Association (ISPA) from the beginning, she was involved in creating the organization’s original mission statement. Throughout the years, Stricker has presented on a variety of topics at the annual ISPA Conference. She was a founder and a vice president of the ISPA Foundation Board of Directors, served on the ISPA Education Foundation Board of Directors, and was an inductee of the Washington Spa Alliance Inaugural Hall of Fame honoring visionaries and contributors to the spa industry. She also established the Ruth Stricker Spa and Wellness Award in 2008. When Stricker won the 2004 Alex Szekely Humanitarian Award, former ISPA chair Jeff Kohl said, "Ruth was a driving force behind the evolution of people no longer seeing spas as pampering but instead as a requisite to staying physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.”
FINALIST: Barbara Close, founder and CEO, Naturopathica
A lifelong practitioner of the healing arts, Barbara Close promotes a holistic approach to skin health. With a master’s degree in therapeutic herbalism from the Maryland University of Integrative Health and with credentials in esthetics, advanced massage, and aromatherapy, she is a pioneer in the wellness movement. Close founded the Naturopathica East Hampton Healing Arts Center & Spa (NY) in 1995. It was there she began to formulate the Naturopathica line of skin, body, and herbal remedies. Two decades later, she opened Naturopathica Chelsea, a flagship spa in New York City with healing facials and massages, herbal consultations, meditation classes, and workshops that give spa-goers a comprehensive holistic wellness experience. “From the beginning, my goal at Naturopathica has been to educate people about natural health and beauty in new and exciting, but accessible ways,” says Close. “I define beauty not as a pampering or indulgent experience or a quest to achieve an artificial, idealized form of beauty, but as an expression of living an authentic, healthy, and vibrant life that celebrates one’s own unique beauty and spirit.” After 23 years leading the award-winning skincare brand, Close recently released her third book, The Naturopathica Effect: A Holistic Approach to Skin Care (2018). In it, she reflects on her experience as a product formulator and a spa owner, offering her simple, yet refreshing, approach to skin health. Today, Naturopathica can be found in more than 400 of the world’s leading destination and resort spas.
FINALIST: Sylvia Sepielli, founder, Sylvia Planning and Design (SPAd)
Known for her vision and the extraordinary spas she has designed, Sylvia Sepielli has lent her talented touch to Mii amo, A Destination Spa (Sedona, AZ), Spa Halekulani (Honolulu, HI), and Dolder Spa (Zurich, Switzerland) to name just a few. Sepielli got her start studying Oriental healing arts in Japan. Although she wasn’t immediately sure where her studies would lead, it all came in to focus when she moved back to the States and discovered the connection among fitness, nutrition, and therapies. In 1994, she started Sylvia Planning And design (SPAd), a consulting company. While her portfolio of work speaks for itself, Sepielli herself has been a transformative force in the industry. “If you mention the title ‘spa mentor’ to people in a casual conversation, the name you most often hear is Sylvia’s,” says Lynn Curry, president and co-owner of Resources for Leisure Assets. “She has mentored so many industry professionals, including me. She totally directed the ways spas should and would be developed in the early years of spa development in the U.S. market.”
Congrats to our winner and finalists of the Industry Icon category. Stay tuned on American Spa online, as well on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more info about the winners and finalists of the 2019 Women in Wellness Awards as well as upcoming Women in Wellness Leadership Conferences.